Another medicine, called Namenda, has recently been approved for use in the U.S. for Alzheimer’s. This medication has a different action than the acetylcholinesterase inhibitors and the two types of drugs may be used together, at the same time. This may increase the effectiveness of therapy.
All of the FDA-approved treatments now available only provide relief of cognitive symptoms; they do not attack underlying disease. A recent study found that patients with mild Alzheimer’s disease who take a drug called Flurizan were able to slow the disease-related decline in their activities of daily living (such as eating and dressing) by about 67 percent when compared with people on placebo.
Flurizan is the first of a new class of drugs known as selective amyloid beta-owering agents, which are intended to affect the suspected underlying cause of the disease, a build-up of beta-amyloid protein.
The cholinesterase inhibitor, Cognex, is rarely used anymore due to serious liver side effects and the need for frequent blood testing.
In a trial involving eight people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s, researchers at Weill Medical College of Cornell University are trying to harness the body’s immune system to fight Alzheimer’s. In this trial, intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) seemed to increase the levels of anti-beta-amyloid antibodies in the blood to a greater degree than seen before resulting in an average 45 percent decrease of amyloid. Six of the eight patients experienced improvement in cognitive function and none of the patients had declining function.
Previous studies had noted that levels of these antibodies seemed to be lower in people with Alzheimer’s. IVIg is derived from human blood and contains high concentrations of antibodies.
Researches are not yet sure how this occurs. For example, amyloid clearance might be due to a flushing effect (i.e., antibodies in the brain are working to flush out the protein) or a magnet-like effect (the antibodies are drawing or attracting the protein into the bloodstream).